Cuban-born Carlos Cata leads by example. After getting his MBA from Duke University and working as a brand manager for Kraft, he was a founding partner of Frontera Foods. Today he is a managing partner in the Chicago office for global executive search firm CTPartners. He talks to HE about broadening the leadership pool in corporate America by increasing numbers of Latinos in leadership positions.
How did you get into executive recruiting?
I began in consumer-packaged goods for Proctor & Gamble and Kraft. Then I became a consultant and entrepreneur. I saw a convergence between my passion points (marketing, consulting, and finding talent)that led to an executive search career.
Talk about CTPartners’ unique vision.
Our goal is to identify, cultivate, and place leaders in the top echelons of companies. All major corporations are seeking a broader leadership pool. We saw a unique opportunity within Latino leadership. No one was focusing on connecting Latino leaders with companies, but everyone on the supply-and-demand side wanted this connection. We develop deep relationships with Latino leaders and with companies that would suit them well.
How does CTPartners accomplish that?
We’re trying to encourage current Latino leaders to give a hand up to future leaders through mentoring and coaching. One example is a dinner we’re sponsoring on October 15 in New York City. We handpicked about a dozen Latino leaders to attend. We want to turn these 10 or so leaders today into 100 leaders tomorrow. We have to figure out how to take the spark and make it a fire.
What was the impetus behind this?
As an executive leadership group, Hispanics in general haven’t been great at self-promotion or networking; we have historically preferred assimilating. CTParners wants to present those who are leaders in the community with unique opportunities to mentor future leaders. There is a need for Latino leaders who can understand the changing marketplace. Over the course of my career in recruiting, 50 percent of my placements have been diverse, with 20 percent
Can you outline the current state of Hispanics in leadership roles in corporate America?
Historically, there weren’t enough qualified Hispanics for senior management roles. But now Latino talent is rising in the ranks. There is a host of Latino leaders who are market-ready for senior and executive vice president roles. Today there are more Latinos in senior level positions in corporate America than ever before, but relative to Caucasian males, their numbers are still low. And there’s not enough representation of Hispanics in senior management commensurate with the number of Hispanics in the general population. In 2013 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies did not have a Hispanic on their board, there were only 10 Hispanic CEOs, and only four percent of companies had multiple Hispanics on their board.
Are there certain industries seeking Hispanics for leadership positions more than others?
Ten years ago, consumer products companies like Procter & Gamble and Colgate were at the forefront of bringing more diversity to management. Today, almost every company is looking for Latino leadership because they all want to represent the fabric of the United States. There is more density of Latino leadership in consumer-focused industries such as retail and entertainment. As Hispanics become the majority population in the country, companies need to understand the Latino market from both the consumer and the employment perspective.
What advice do you have for aspiring Latino leaders?
I would focus on two aspects: performance and leadership. Deliver on your role, and be a top talent for your position. Also, define yourself as a leader both in your organization and to others. Identify ways to develop, coach, and mentor future Latino leaders. In that way, you will distinguish yourself as a leader and as one who fosters opportunities for others.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received, and how have you applied it to your work?
God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason: you have to listen first and talk later. As a recruiter I listen carefully to what is being said and also consider what is not being said.
What is the most challenging part of your job and what is the most rewarding?
The most challenging is this: When you’re dealing with people and not widgets, you have to plan for all the contingencies and emotional elements that come into play when people are making significant life changes (like moving their whole family for a new job). The best recruiters retain their sense of empathy.
The most rewarding aspect of the job is being part of transforming people’s lives through the betterment of their career. When you get a thank-you call a year later and hear how happy the person is and how happy their spouse is, you know you’ve done more than a just a job placement.